One medium for recording information and history that has always been reliable is to just carve it into stone. After all, it is not going to be upended by some new format, it lasts pretty much forever, and it is as reliable and permanent a medium as we have ever found. Since time unremembered people have etched things into stone, where they remain for perhaps all eternity. Yet in later centuries these messages from the past can be seen as quite mysterious indeed, with no way to translate them and no way to know what they say or even who made them. Here are some very curious rock inscriptions from past peoples which have only managed to confuse, and which remain unexplained and unsolved.
One very mysterious such stone is to be found in the Caney Fork Creek valley in Jackson County, of the U.S. state of North Carolina. Called Judaculla Rock, the soapstone boulder is immense, measuring roughly 22 square meters (240 sq ft), and it was long considered to be a scared place for the native Cherokees, who believed it to be a landing point for an ancient monster called the Juaculla, Tsul’Kalu, or the “Great Lord of the hunt,” a giant which left a seven-fingered handprint upon it as he lept from mountain to mountain. Considered to be a place of spirits, the main point of interest with this particular boulder are the numerous petroglyph symbols found upon it, none of which have successfully been deciphered.
Along many points upon the rock are etched cryptic symbols, lines, and patterns, which have been dated back to about 3,000 years ago or even more. What makes it even more astonishing is that there are so many of these strange markings, with the Judaculla Rock sporting more petroglyphs than any other known boulder east of the Mississippi River. As to what any of these symbols mean no one really has a clue, and no one is really even sure who made them. They have been said to be some sort of map of the land, religious symbols of some ritualistic significance, a key to a new language, or even some sort of coded message for future generations.
Despite much study, we still don’t know, and considering that the area has not been properly excavated there could very well be more where this comes from, all embedded with their inscrutable mysteries and lost to time. Interestingly, the vicinity of Judaculla Rock has acquired a reputation for having much ghostly phenomena revolving about it, and is also a hotspot for UFO activity. Whether this has anything to do with the archeological significance of the rock is unknown, but this is certainly a mysterious and mystical site. Considering that the rock seems to be quickly eroding in recent times, it seems that the mystery may be gone before we even know what it all means, and in the meantime the rock has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places and is open to tours and visitors looking to get a peek into a genuine ancient mystery.
There have been many large stone slabs like this that have turned up undeciphered markings and codes. Another from the United States was unearthed back in 1877 in the state of Iowa, and bore some strange engravings indeed. Here upon the rock was carved an ancient passage called the “Opening of the Mouth Ceremony,” or Died Festival, which is of Egyptian and Nubian origin, although how it got there in Iowa is anyone’s guess. There also engravings of Egyptian obelisks, a pyramid, and African animals upon it, deepening the mystery. Some scholars believe it may have been carried up the Mississippi River by pre-Columbian Egyptian explorers, while others say it is aliens or simply a hoax. For now it is unknown, and the “The Davenport Calendar stele” remains a mystery.
A similarly baffling stone slab with enigmatic markings was stumbled across by some farmers in a field in southern Spain in 2002, but at the time no one knew what they had found and left it there until someone finally realized the potential importance of the etchings and had it moved to the Montoro Archaeological Museum. The slab, called the “Stela of Montoro,” itself measures approximately 1.5 meters high and is covered with various symbols, patterns, and writing described as being a mishmash of Spanish, Greek, Iberian, Canaanite and South Arabian languages that have been dated to around the 3rd century BC. As of yet no one has been able to decipher what the symbols and scripts actually say, and one Dr. Garcia Sanjuan of the University of Seville has said of it:
It’s rare to find something like this. The inscriptions on this stela cannot be read. There isn’t a single script that makes sense of them. They seem to be an assorted collection of graphemes taken from different scripts and put together on this stone. What we have here perhaps would be local people – who were very probably illiterate people – replicating on a stone the signs that they have seen of or been told about, which they probably did not understand. This would reflect very early contact between local people and people from outside Iberia – most likely Phoenicians coming from the eastern Mediterranean.
Another cryptic giant stone is a hunk of granite that was dug up in the U.S. state of Massachusetts, and is believed to have once been used as a simple doorstep for a Native American meeting house near a burial ground in the 17th century. The stone, now known mostly as the Bourne Stone, would pass through several owners over the years until it finally ended up at the Aptucxet Trading Post in Bourne in about 1930, and that was when someone was finally able to realize that there were some very strange markings inscribed upon it, which turned out to resemble a type of Iberian script that dated back to 475 BC, long before Iberians should have been in the New World. Other theories are that the markings are some sort of Norse runes or Native petroglyphs, but whatever they are have never been translated and they and their makers remain a historical enigma.
In the state of West Virginia we have another oddity in what has come to be called The Grave Creek Stone, which was found at Moundsville, West Virginia, near the Ohio River in 1838 along with human skeletons and various artifacts. It was allegedly a small, sandstone disc inscribed with twenty-five characters of unknown origin. One geologist named Henry Rowe Schoolcraft speculated that the characters were composed of Ancient Greek, Etruscan, Runic, ancient Gallic, old Erse, Phoenician, old British, and Celtiberic, which makes it all rather odd indeed. It was never deciphered, and what makes this particular find more mysterious is that it vanished off the face of the earth, shortly after coming into the collection of an E.H. Davis. There is only one known photograph of the stone in existence, and it is likely we will never know what it says.
Other mystery rocks seem to represent anomalous history and hint at the existence of mysterious ancient peoples. One of the most well-known of these is a massive 40-ton, 11-foot long boulder originally located in the riverbed of the Taunton River at Berkley, Massachusetts, which is covered in ancient petroglyphs and writing of unknown origin that have been baffling experts for centuries. The rock was described in Rev. Cotton Mather’s 1690 book The Wonderful Works of God Commemorated thus:
Among the other Curiosities of New-England, one is that of a mighty Rock, on a perpendicular side whereof by a River, which at High Tide covers part of it, there are very deeply Engraved, no man alive knows How or When about half a score Lines, near Ten Foot Long, and a foot and half broad, filled with strange Characters: which would suggest as odd Thoughts about them that were here before us, as there are odd Shapes in that Elaborate Monument.
The origins of the geometric shapes, drawings, and writing etched upon the rock are just as much a mystery today as they were back then. In 1963 Dighton Rock was removed and placed in a museum at nearby Dighton State Park for preservation and study, and despite being analyzed by numerous scientists and archeologists over the years, no one is really certain who made the markings or what they mean. The petroglyphs have managed to elude understanding, its writings and symbols undecipherable, and the rock has sparked all manner of speculation, ranging from the rational to the decidedly fringe, such as that they were left by pre-Columbian Norse, Phoenician, Portuguese, or Chinese explorers, that they were merely made by the Native people of the area, or even that they were made by aliens or were an actual message from God. In the end, no one knows, and the Dighton Rock has gone on to become a legendary unsolved mystery.
Somewhat similar to Dighton Rock is another large boulder located in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, called the Quidnessett Rock, or also the Narragansett Runestone. Discovered half-buried in the mud flats of Narragansett Bay in 1984, the 2.5 ton boulder is not nearly as large as the Dighton Rock, but it similarly bears numerous strange symbols or runes of mysterious origins. The stone has gone on to be studied by various institutes such as the Rhode Island Historical Preservation and Heritage Commission (HPHC), the New England Antiquities Research Association (NEARA), and the University of Rhode Island School of Oceanography, but answers have remained evasive to say the least.
Theories include that it is some sort of ancient pre-Columbian Viking carvings or that it was a marker created by The Knights Templar in ancient times, but it is far from clear, and the stone has drawn in droves of curiosity seekers over the years. So many people came to the mud flats looking for the rock, in fact, that one local man actually stole it in 2012 and dropped it into deeper waters for the purpose of keeping the tourists away. The rune stone was eventually recovered the following year and put on display at Updike Park, in the quiet village of Wickford, where it has continued to puzzle all who try to understand it. Making matters of its origins murkier is that in 2014 a man named Everett Brown came forward to say the markings on the Narragansett stone were a practical joke carried out by him and his brother in 1964, although this has been disputed and is likely a hoax itself.
Another supposed series of enigmatic runestones were found in the state of Oklahoma, with markings that date back to the Bronze Age. One of the stones, called the “Heavener Runestone,” has an ancient runic alphabet carved upon it that is one of the oldest there is. This particular stone has eight runes upon it, which are thought to be from four runic systems known as the Elder Futhark, dating to 100 to 700 A.D. Why these stones should be present in Oklahoma has never been satisfactorily explained, although they are thought to have not been made by the Vikings and even predate them.
These are just a few of the cryptic ancient rocks that have been unearthed all across our planet, leaving mysteries that we are unable to solve. Who made these strange relics and for what purpose? What do they say? Will we ever understand them? For now they are merely glimpses through a cracked lens into a part of the past we do not yet understand, and they will lie there with their impenetrable secrets permanently commited to stone, much as they always have, and likely always will.